February 14, 2014, 5:23 PM

How Amazon and mobile commerce are challenging B2B companies

Growth in the B2B space will mimic the growth and development seen in B2C channels, Forrester Research says. To keep up, B2B companies need to follow the lead of Amazon with easy-to-shop e-commerce sites and enter mobile commerce.

Lead Photo

Andy Hoar

Retail e-commerce leader Amazon.com Inc. and mobile commerce are setting higher standards for how companies must sell to other businesses through e-commerce sites and mobile devices, Forrester Research says in a new report titled, “The New and Emerging World of B2B Commerce.” In a world where customers research and buy via several traditional and non-traditional channels, companies engaged in business-to-business e-commerce need to offer an Amazon-like, customer-friendly model, the report says

Amazon’s B2B e-commerce site, AmazonSupply.com, “is a good example of how and where the standard is already having an effect,” says the report’s author Andy Hoar, a Forrester senior analyst who covers B2B e-commerce technology and strategies, who posted a blog about the report yesterday at blogs.forreter.com.

When Amazon’s B2B site launched in April 2012, it mirrored Amazon’s retail e-commerce site and offered the company’s entire worldwide user base free two-day shipping and year-round returns. But only 26% of B2B companies say their current e-commerce technology systems are capable of offering the same perks, the report says. Though 48% of B2B e-commerce executives say their companies offer better features and services than their direct competitors, only 17% say their company’s features and services are better than Amazon’s.

Forrester gathered some of the data cited in the report through a survey conducted last fall with Internet Retailer. Amazon.com Inc. is No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Forrester predicts that B2B companies will see  growth in e-commerce similar to retail’s increase in the last decade  in the number of web shoppers and ways in which they shop.  For example, B2B e-commerce may soon include sites covering such areas coupons and deals, comparison shopping and loyalty programs, the report says.

“We expect to see an equally eclectic mix of specialty sites emerge in B2B—sites that will serve niche B2B customers like HVAC professionals, aircraft maintenance works and semiconductor design engineers,” Hoar writes in the report. “Some of these sites will narrowly serve such highly specialized B2B professions, while others will serve broader B2B audiences and possible B2C customers as well.”

Forrester also predicts mobile sales and traffic  to grow following the lead of B2C retail. Though currently only 3% to 5% of B2B e-commerce sales come from mobile, 7% to 10% of all B2B web traffic comes from mobile devices, according to the report. The percentage of B2B traffic coming from mobile will soon match the 22% of traffic from mobile on B2C  sites, Forrester says. Similarly, the report suggests that apps that track price and inventory in B2C will bleed over to B2B. Then, staffers using e-procurement systems in large B2B companies will be able to compare prices from various sellers anywhere on the web, the report says. B2B companies, therefore, will have to be transparent in both price and product availability in order to remain competitive, Hoar writes.

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